The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Trans Union Corp. to stop selling personal credit data to junk mail companies.
Trans Union "made a calculated financial decision to trade privacy for profits," Federal Trade Commission official David Medine said.
The company was not hit with any penalties but the FTC said any further violations will result in court action.
The FTC contends that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Trans Union, Equifax and Experian are supposed to limit access to consumers' credit reports to "permissible purposes," such as making decisions about whether to extend credit.
Equifax and Experian have gone along with the FTC's interpretation of the law but Trans Union has not. It sells data to direct marketers through a subsidiary, Performance Data.
Trans Union says it sells information about different types of consumers -- upscale consumers and those who appear to be in financial trouble, for example -- to direct marketers. It denies selling information about credit status and payment history.
The FTC said the practice is illegal and has been taking various enforcement actions against Trans Union since 1992.